Los Angeles-based ‘gangsta gardener’ and community leader Ron Finley is determined to redefine ‘gangsta’ as being about building thriving communities, not machismo
“Gardening is gangsta: Mother Nature is gangsta. Being educated, creative and self-sustaining is gangsta. That whole concept was about turning a negative into a positive. If you want to be gangsta about anything, make it about building your community, sharing knowledge.
Men are brought up being told that we’re supposed to be provider and protector. But, as far as I can see, a lot of our communities are basically designed to kill people, because you can’t find healthy or nutritious food in them. Why is it easier to get alcohol than an organic apple? Why, in certain communities here, is it easier to get a gun than it is to get an organic carrot? Cities are designed for commerce, not for people.
I don’t separate being a man and being a human being – being a conscious citizen of this planet
A lot of guys spend time in prison because of trying to get that whole American dream. ‘I want my wife, my girlfriend, to have this or that that I saw on TV: diamonds and fancy cars.’ Gardening changes people’s lives – it shows the alchemy and the art of Mother Nature. It gives you a reverence and respect for soil, tiny seeds, water. As boys, we were all told ‘money don’t grow on trees – go get a job’. But somebody should have told us: ‘if you want some money – plant some trees’.
If we want to change this, all over the world, we have to make growing and producing food sexy. It’s where I find my solace, my joy. The soil seduces you. You do the soil’s bidding.